Sensitive massage is a unique type of therapy that can speak directly to many of the greatest needs of children. It is stimulating, relaxing, emotionally nurturing and feels terrific. It can help children release tension, become more aware of their bodies, and form a body image that is positive and strong. When there are periods of rapid brain growth and the child’s self image is being formed, massage can be especially significant. For many kids, their childhood can have stressful times, and massage is a great way to learn to deal with stress.
Recent research on massage for children with a wide range of disabilities, including hospitalized newborns, children with asthma, autism, severe burns, visual impairment, rheumatoid arthritis. and other special groups has documented many of these benefits. For example, hospitalized newborns who are receiving gentle daily massages gain more weight on the same amount of formula and have decreased levels of stress hormones.
But we never force massage on children, instead we make it fun! In the pediatric massage class we will learn how to make massage more interesting and enjoyable, using novel toys, balls, items of different textures, heat and cold and more. (These are also forms of sensory stimulation which will help kids be more comfortable being handled.) For example, a little girl named Molly, who had Behr’s Syndrome, was treated in a fun way in massage class.
Normally, this inherited neurological condition meant that her hands were so sensitive she could not pick up anything, and had never been able to feed herself. First, we let her play with bathtub toys in a pan of warm water, then in a pan of cold water, and finally we managed to massage her hands in the water while she was distracted and paying no attention.. Then gradually, as she could tolerate more stimulation, her hands were massaged out of the water. Her mother followed up at home, massaging Molly’s hands every day, and in two weeks her occupational therapist reported Molly was finally able to tolerate holding a spoon. Now she could begin to learn to feed herself.